If you have ever read the blog The Mad Fermentationist (and I know you have) you know how knowledgeable and concise Michael Tonsmeire is. He is open and honest and I trust what he says. On Saturday March 28th we had the privilege of hosting Michael at Bitter & Esters to sign copies of his new book American Sour Beers. What started as a talk and book signing quickly became a sour beer swap! Despite Saturday being the first round of judging for the National Homebrew Competition*, we had a great turnout with the coolest part being that just about everyone brought some sour or brett beer. It was a great selection and Michael tried them all! He really liked my business partner Doug’s sour cider. I shot him saying so on video! Michael brought some of his own delicious beers that he generously shared with everyone. A lemon Berliner Weisse, a Flemish Red made with red wine yeast, and a cider that was dry hopped with galaxy hops. All were incredibly delicious. Michael knows his stuff! Michael has a wealth of knowledge about sour beers and was more than willing to share. We spoke about how Brettanomyces will scavenge oxygen in your beer as all beers will oxidize when hops inevitably break down. Bottle with brett and your beers stay will stay fresher longer, although you will still lose hop aroma. He mentioned that there is more than one type of lactic acid (apparently they are isomers) when I asked him about the difference between lactobacillus and pediococcus (pedio produces both kinds). We spoke about research he is working on involving glycosides (non aromatic compounds in hops and other plants that create aroma when enzymatically cleaved by yeast) and which bretts and yeast have those enzymes to cleave them (they’re still working on finding that out). He prefers oak cubes to barrels (easier and more predictable) and likes to pitch all of his bugs at once. He doesn’t like to mash or kettle sour (too unpredictable) and his favorite concoction for a sour beer is US-05, lactobacillus brevis and a brett. He answered everyone’s questions with good humor and grace, and it felt like he was just one of the gang. It was a geeky, nerdy, beery fun time! Michael does have a day job as an economist. He gets some income from being “Mad” but he does this mostly for the love of it and it is pretty obvious he loves what he does. After about 4 hours of talking and signing I introduced him to Roma Pizzeria’s grandma pie (which if you haven’t had it, you should) which he totally dug. Afterwards, a few of us went to Covenhoven to continue the beer drinking. Molly of Covenhoven graciously brought us some more food (I told Mike, stick with me and you’ll have all of the beer, bread and cheese you want!). We hung out trying all of the great local beers they have there and talked about, you guessed it, beer! It was a real honor having Mike at the store and getting to hang out and chat with him. Until we meet again Mad Fermentationist! Not so mad fermentationist.
*I know that more than a few people wish they could have been there. Thank you judges and stewards who couldn’t make it for doing an awesome job of taking care of NHC NYC!